Since most people infected with Covid-19 do not need hospital care but do need to be monitored and have access to advice and potential emergency care if they get worse, Zimbabwe has launched what has been described as a virtual hospital.
The online facility is aimed at ensuring that those who can recover at home get the attention they need without congesting health institutions and travelling unnecessarily.
Early treatment helps recovery and the virtual hospital will also reduce worries among those who do not feel very ill but need reassurance.
“The virtual hospital complements the physical hospital facilities, now being used by those who need in-patient care. The hospitals are coping and we have designated more Covid-19 hospitals,” said Health and Child Care Deputy Minister Dr John Mangwiro.
“We encourage people to get vaccinated. We also have a virtual hospital and a toll-free number, 2019. We have arrangements that people can be assisted virtually.
“Instead of everybody coming to the hospital, the healthcare teams are now visiting people and it is important to describe exactly what you are feeling to get proper help,” said Dr Mangwiro.
The facility is not only aimed at tracking the Covid-19 infected but also those who might have symptoms and are not sure if they Covid-19 and so can now phone the toll-free numbers.
Giving details of the online hospital, Dr Mangwiro said those who test positive but do not need hospitalisation will be requested to leave their contact details to track their progress.
“The person does not come to the clinic. This time around the patient calls the healthcare givers and the health workers would either give the patient directions on what to do, be it to increase their oxygen flow, take some tablets or be given instruction on what to do next.
“They can have video or voice conversations with local health teams. They can also be visited by the health team, if the call is urgent and the team feels they need to visit,” said Dr Mangwiro.
Zimbabwe’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic has been seen as good with the World Health Organisation impressed by the transmission and prevention measures, which had resulted in low levels of infections and mortality.
Dr Mangwiro said the Government has opened more health posts and the process of engaging retired professionals who have been certified fit for duty was ongoing.
“The recruitment is ongoing and those retired and have not yet been engaged can come to the Health Services Board or come to the ministry, they will be assessed and assisted to re-join the forces and fight this pandemic.”
He also said the Government was grateful to the sacrifice and determination by health workers in responding to this pandemic.
Dr Mangwiro, himself a medical practitioner, implored colleagues to keep on the fight despite the dangers associated with their job.
For all health staff, it was a humanitarian mission of their lifetime, and President Mnangagwa’s administration has been consistent that their welfare will be prioritised.
“It has been a massive amount of work done by healthcare givers. I want to commend colleagues, doctors and public health personnel, nurses, nurse aids, general workers and everyone involved who have done very well.
“Of course some have fallen sick along the way but I want to commend Zimbabwean healthcare givers for the bravery, courage and energy they have given to face this challenge.
“I want to reiterate that the Government is behind you and we will continue supporting you so that they can do their work easier. I really want to commend health workers for a job well-done,” said Dr Mangwiro.